An implementation study of electronic assessment of patient-reported outcomes in inpatient radiation oncology

J Patient Rep Outcomes. 2022 Jul 19;6(1):77. doi: 10.1186/s41687-022-00478-3.


Purpose: Despite evidence for clinical benefits, recommendations in guidelines, and options for electronic data collection, routine assessment of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) is mostly not implemented in clinical practice. This study aimed to plan, conduct and evaluate the implementation of electronic PRO (e-PRO) assessment in the clinical routine of an inpatient radiation oncology clinic.

Methods: The guideline- and evidence-based, stepwise approach of this single-center implementation study comprised preparatory analyses of current practice, selection of assessment instruments and times, development of staff training, and evidence-based recommendations regarding the use of the e-PRO assessment, as well as on-site support of the implementation. Process evaluation focused on potential clinical benefit (number of documented symptoms and supportive measures), feasibility and acceptance (patient contacts resulting in completion/non-completion of the e-PRO assessment, reasons for non-completion, preconditions, facilitators and barriers of implementation), and required resources (duration of patient contacts to explain/support the completion).

Results: Selection of instruments and assessment times resulted in initial assessment at admission (EORTC QLQ-C30, QSR 10), daily symptom monitoring (EORTC single items), and assessment at discharge (EORTC QLQ-C30). Recommendations for PRO-based clinical action and self-management advice for patients concerning nine core symptoms were developed. Staff training comprised group and face-to-face meetings and an additional e-learning course was developed. Analyses of clinical records showed that e-PRO assessment identified more symptoms followed by a higher number of supportive measures compared to records of patients without e-PRO assessment. Analysis of n = 1597 patient contacts resulted in n = 1355 (84.9%) completed e-PROs (initial assessment: n = 355, monitoring: n = 967, final assessment: n = 44) and n = 242 (15.2%) non-completions. Instructions or support to complete e-PROs took on average 5.5 ± 5.3 min per patient contact. The most challenging issue was the integration of the results in clinical practice.

Conclusion: E-PRO assessment in oncologic inpatient settings is acceptable for patients and can support symptom identification and the initiation of supportive measures. The challenge of making the "data actionable" within the clinical workflow and motivating clinical staff to use the results became evident.

Keywords: Electronic assessment; Health-related quality of life; Implementation; Patient-reported outcomes; Radio-oncology.

Plain language summary

Cancer patients’ perceptions regarding their symptoms and functioning are important as they can differ from a professional assessment. Patients’ perceptions and self-assessment can be collected via electronic devices. Thus, the clinical staff can see a graphic overview of individual disease-related burden. Despite studies indicating the benefit of this assessment for care and symptom management, it is not integrated into routine care so far. The aim of our study was, to plan, conduct and evaluate the implementation of electronic patient-reported assessment in a radio-oncology inpatient clinic under “real-life” clinical conditions instead of study conditions. Patients could complete an electronic assessment at the beginning/end and during their treatment. Results indicate that electronic self-assessment can identify more symptoms than the assessment of physicians and nurses. Patients completing a self-assessment are more likely to receive supportive measures. The majority of 80–90% of patients were willing to complete a self-assessment. On average 5–6 min were needed to explain or support the completion. While the intervention was feasible and acceptable for patients, motivating clinical staff using its results was most challenging. The importance of technical support became evident.